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Farscape season 4

August 19, 2013

farscape-s4Season four of Farscape sees the series pretty much complete its transformation into a modern tv series. The season shot in 16:9 format as opposed to the old 4:3 television standard and, it also almost completely abandons the episodic format. There are some single story episodes but a number of these are driven by story elements of a continuing story arc. Mutli-episode spanning stories are now a regular feature with the final five episodes of the season being one continuous storyline. Spoilers are everywhere.

The season opens with John having taken up residence on one of the dying leviathans on the planet near where Moya got sucked down a worm hole. Sixth months have passed when a group who scavenges the leviathan graveyard planet decides to go after the one John is calling home. This ends up being a bad call on their part and introduces a new regular character in the way of their leviathan specialist named Sikozu. Her full name is actually a lot longer than that and, she is one of these people who is super smart but young enough to be naive to how the world really works in practice. I’ll state up front I’m not super fond of her but I totally respect the character as she is well developed and her gradually developed relationship with Scorpious is really well done over the course of the season.

John convinces the leviathan that her time is really not over and talks her into going to the planet Arnessk where the crew finally reunites, with the exception of Aeryn. There we learn about an ancient race called the Eidolons who will become significant later. Jool decides to stay which was no great loss for me as, like I said in my season three review, I thought the character was a bit of a fifth wheel anyway. The job of ship’s doctor is taken over by an old alien woman named Noranti who was in the season three final episode. I want to stop at this point and say that my reaction to this character really surprised me. Noranti initially comes across as this totally goofy sort of comic-relief type character and, I generally hate these sorts of characters. However, while she still maintains a bit of that role, she actually has some depth and I absolutely fell in love with her over the course of the season. She is my favorite new cast member at this point.

Another addition to the crew is Scorpious himself when he returns Aeryn to Moya. He does this as a peace offering because, due to the destruction of his command carrier, he now finds himself ironically in need of sanctuary from the Peacekeepers. The introduction of this along with Sikozu’s divided loyalties between Scorpious and the rest of the Moya crew introduces a dramatic tension into the show that does a lot to raise the quality of the writing for the remainder of the season.

There are two major story arcs that I really enjoyed this season. The first is John’s return to Earth. I really liked the fact that the first return takes place in the early 80’s as John hasn’t quite gotten all the intricacies of wormhole science quite locked down yet. This sort of stuff frequently happens when theories are first being tested, albeit with considerably smaller unintended consequences but, John is playing with the fabric of space-time here. Chiana’s deflowering of the younger John Crichton is not only humorous but, probably a major contributing element to John’s fascination with space but, obviously, on only a purely subconscious level. The Moya crew meeting John’s family and being Earth’s first contact with extraterrestrial life is pretty awesome but, is tempered by the change in American society caused by post 9/11 paranoia. My favorite episode of the season is the last part of this story arc called A Constellation of Doubt which takes place after Aeryn is kidnapped for spying on a secret meeting between the Peacekeepers and the Scarans. As John is trying to learn about a Scaran base she is being taken to, he watches a tv signal acquired by Moya of a documentary from Earth discussing the immediate after effects of the first contact. It is a great episode that doesn’t really pull many punches with respect to the reaction of various organizations on our planet to the idea that we are no longer alone, especially given the first examples of alien life presented to us.

The second story arc is set up by Aeryn’s kidnapping and takes up the remainder of the season’s episodes. When Chiana and Noranti come back with news of the kidnapping and the secret meeting, John formulates a bold rescue plan that basically involves strapping a nuclear warhead to himself and crashing the next Scaran/Peacekeeper meeting with the offer to sell his wormhole knowledge to the highest bidder. It proves to be an epic story arc as well as a suitable conclusion to an outstanding season. This season of Farscape is easily the series’ best. Even up until the beginning of this season, while I was enjoying the series, I still didn’t think myself likely to ever purchase a copy. This season has made me much more likely to do so as I can now see myself revisiting the series at some point.

After such an exceptional season I immediately wondered how the show got cancelled. Actually, I wondered this before hand and Kevin, who lent me the DVDs, said I should finish the season before I spoke to him about it. Apparently, SyFy, then the SciFi channel, decided to not go with a fifth season due to the series price tag and, announced this just prior to airing season four. They sighted the series decreasing ratings but, the drop was not low enough for any normal cable channel to dump a show. It turns what was probably the bigger issue was that SciFi had increased their number of viewers by a large amount and Farscape’s ratings kept dropping in spite of the increased audience. This is the point at which I would traditionally throw SyFy under the bus for acting like one of the big three networks but, I do see where they are coming from here with respect to the ratings direction relative to the increased number of viewers. However, what I can throw them under the bus for is the packaging of the series with Stargate SG-1. While they are both genre shows I have to believe that they each appeal to radically different demographics of this niche audience. As a result, the Friday evening period, a death slot for major network shows but which has always done well for SyFy, pretty much became a death slot for Farscape because Stargate viewers didn’t stick around afterwards. How this wasn’t transparently obvious to SciFi’s management at the time is a bit beyond me but, then again, I watch a lot of genre tv. This leads into what I would consider my only real complaint with the fourth season and that would be for the producers leaving in the cliffhanger ending. They could have easily edited out the, what is it, last minute of the final episode and had an awesome series finale. Of course, leaving it in probably ultimately gave us The Peacekeeper Wars series finale which I will be discussing shortly.

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